A Travellerspoint blog

Middlewich, UK

A visit with family.

sunny 23 °C

The train to Crewe from London is only 8 pounds and takes over two hours. Nice train with a wheelchair accessible WC. The first I have seen. A lorry driver runs on the train at the last minute and we chat for a good part of the trip. He's just delivered a motor home to somewhere down near Croatia and is deadheading home.
Geoff meets us at the station and we drop our stuff off at the Boars Head Inn before heading over to Doris and Joyce. Doris plies us with tea, wine and homemade sausage rolls. Dave soon arrives followed by Roger's cousin Bobby from Jersey whom he met for the first time. Geoff heads home, Sue joins us and we carpool up to the Three Greyhounds for a pub dinner. Grandma has the fish and chips, I had the ploughman’s plate, and Roger tries he salmon. I don't hear any complaints. The pub is closing up so we head to Sue's for a bit and then home for the night.
The Inn's pub is still open and somewhat noisy, but I have earplugs and I sleep well.
Our breakfast in the am is included and we have the full breakfast. Turns out that is bacon, ham, blood pudding, beans, toast, egg, and mushrooms.... I can't eat it all so will order somewhat less tomorrow. A fellow from Australia is down for breakfast and we chat with him. Peter is retired and on the road. No real plans until November, till then he can go where he wants. We learn of the time he and his daughter were robbed in Spain. They were driving on the free way and traffic was rather sparse. There was a loud bang and they thought they had blown a tire, but the car held steady and so they kept going. Shortly a vehicle pulled up and the driver was indicating there was something wrong with their tire. They didn't stop, and then the other vehicle pulled ahead and forced them to pull over. The guy got out and came over to their car and forced off the hubcap and spoke excitedly. Peter and his daughter got out of the car and he grabbed his keys as he got out. The stranger dropped the hubcap and ran back to his vehicle and drove off. Peter and his daughter got in the car and drove off. It was not until they stopped for gas they realized their bags were gone. They had been cleaned out. They figured the stranger had a partner who stole their stuff while he distracted them.
People finally got organized and we ended up heading for a walk ending up at The Anderton lift. It is a 50-foot vertical link between the Weaver River and the canal. We watched for a bit, but you can't see too much. When we left we ran into some friends of Sue and Dave. They have a narrow boat and we spend the afternoon sitting on the canal banks chatting before heading home for Chinese food.
Next morning Dave picks us up from the inn. Their friends have booked a time in the lift and invited us for a ride in their narrow boat. John and Sandra own the Scottsford and Geoff and Rose own the Carpe Diem. We divide up and settle in the boat awaiting our turn.
So our narrow boat moves into position through the first gate and Geoff comes along side us. The gate closes behind us and opens in front. We move through into the caisson. There is a set of two gates there set about a foot apart. They close. Then the water between them is pumped out and as soon as that happens the caisson, water, boats and all descends while its twin rises beside it. The whole process reverses at the bottom. So we have dropped from the Trent on Mersey canal to the Weaver River. We have enough time to coast down the river and through the first lock before we have to start back to make our time for coming back up the lift. I piloted the boat from the lift to the lock and Roger got a turn on the way back.
We moored the narrow boats and made our way to the Stanley Arms for the obligatory pub visit with chips, sandwiches and rounds of beverages. The next round arriving before the first round is done. Back to Sue and Dave's and we try out the air rifle, a little golf, dog mayhem on the trampoline, say hi to the horses, more food and a shot at the Wii for golf, baseball, Frisbee and dog fighting.
Everyone and their mother have a dog along the canal. People are very friendly and lots of fun.
Day three starts a little earlier so we get over to Doris's to say goodbye to Bobby and to wish Joyce Happy Birthday. We give her a book from Dover Castle as well as some postcards and a fridge magnet. She says the set up in the room at the castle as indicated in photos is not quite the same as when she was there. Bobby is back to Jersey and we head out for a walk up the canal. The one right here is Trent on Mersey and we start up it, but it follows the road, so we back track to Wardle Bridge and head up the smaller canal. Here we are able to see the smaller self operated locks and assist one boat going through. We wander up threw some lovely gardens and out into some pasture area before turning back.
By now Denise is off work and heading over and Dave suggests we go over to Knutford to wander a bit. We will visit for a bit, head there and finish with dinner at the some thing and something. A little more upscale traditional English pub according to David. Everyone shows up for dinner Denise, Jeff, David and Susan, Louie, Luke, Olivia, Louise, and Joseph, Doris, Joyce, Roger and I.

Posted by Mari Anne 02.08.2011 03:17 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged river pub canal birthday longboat weaver middlewich anderton Comments (0)

A day in London

Okay a visit with friends, but it is London

sunny 24 °C

Another good sleep serenaded by the early morning gulls. Another breakfast of sweet fresh fruit and croissants that flaked beautifully and we are packed ready to leave. Robert wouldn't take any money for the two calls we made and we chatted for a bit. He has lived all over the place and worked in BC at one time. He commented on some of his more interesting guests...the ones who had to ship their luggage over from the states, the ones who book a B & B in a heritage house then suggest he needs to update and put in a lift. All of a sudden we realize we should be on our way to the train.
We arrive in plenty of time and ask someone if they are waiting for the 10:05 for London. She says yes so we settle in. Her daughter suggests we not listen to her mom, but check, as there are three trains to London leaving in a short period of time. She is right and we move over to platform three and board the correct train. We get a table and seats for four and the train stays fairly empty through most of our journey so we are able to enjoy the space and have our fruit snack on the way. We did pick the regional train, which is much cheaper, and stops at every little town along the way so we do have plenty of time. A family sits behind us and the boy talks nonstop but is really funny to listen to, he obviously says whatever pops into his head and was very excited to visit the zoo.
Our arrival in London is right on time and the instructions I have for the underground are pretty good. We manage to get our tickets and find our way to the correct train, make a transfer and arrive in great time. We are about to call Kerry to let him know we are here as he appears behind us. It is a nice walk to his place so we go on foot.
Sam is waiting at the flat and of course we are on the third floor. The flat is a Counsel flat right on the Thames at Canada Water. It is large for London, bright and open and has doors that open up to the river. Our room is also on the front and the nighttime lights are wonderful. Amazingly the area is quiet. Kerry says behind them is the more expensive higher class places and the other way is a bit rougher. We watched the clippers, rowers, and party boats pass by. This is just an overnight to visit old friends so the sightseeing in minimal.
A bit of a cheese, a bun and a cup of tea and we are on the road. We walk up and catch the clipper across the river to Canary Wharf. We catch a train to the Cutty Sark, which is under repairs. We imagine they are getting it fixed up for the Olympics. From there we find a tunnel and walk under the Thames to the other side. We arrive in Greenwich and walk up the hill for a great vista of the city. Every tour with a busload of teenagers must have been there. We do the picture of us on the Greenwich Meridian, the Prime Meridian of the world before wandering on.
Stella calls and we catch a double decker bus back to the flat to meet up with her. The evening is fun. We start with Prosecco an Italian version of Champagne and order in Indian. The 45 minutes to deliver it turns into 2 hours, but it does arrive and the food is good, the company is great and the day has been wonderful.

Posted by Mari Anne 28.07.2011 23:47 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london train friends thames overnight dover Comments (0)

Dover Castle

To see where Roger's mom worked during the war.

overcast 21 °C

Last night we decided to head towards the white cliffs of Dover and found there is a wonderful series of paths all along our way. We could see up to the castle, the entire port and up to the north. We had to turn back so we didn't get caught on the cliffs in the dark. We didn't bring the camera so we will come back and make sure we have time to meander a little further.
We sleep well and are serenaded by the sea gulls starting about 4:30 in the morning. A bit more sleep and time to get ready for our day. Robert is having our breakfast ready at 8 and when we come down our juice is poured, our yogurt with fresh fruit with a sprinkling of granola is in our place and the tea and toast follows shortly one other table is set and a German couple arrive at 8:30, they have opted for a cooked breakfast.
We use the GPS to find the train station and pick up our tickets for tomorrow. Then find our way up to Dover Castle. We have to wait ten minutes for the ticket office opens and then we head in. The secret underground tour is what we want and we are first in line. It gets better - they send us in as a group of 8 instead of 30. This allows us lots of room to see things and to ask questions. Our first stop is an Anderson bomb shelter where we listen to period radio announcements until we are given the all clear. From there we enter a room where we view a video with the history of the area leading up to WWII. From there we walk down a corridor that has graffiti carved into the walls dating from 1870 to 1945. The next room has a video displayed on a wall as well as maps and other details projected on a table in front of us. It is all to do with WWII, the number of soldiers, the leaders and the strengths and weaknesses of each country. We follow the battles, the advances, and wins and losses for each side. It ends with the allies being cornered in Dunkerque. (Dunkirk)
The next section has life-sized projections and details the events of the Dunkerque rescue. The hopes of getting some of the men off the beach leads to a major event whereby over 350,000 men are saved. The losses would have been hire had the beach been a shingle beach like Dover. It was sand and the men dug themselves in to protect themselves from the German strafing. The saved the heavy artillery for the ships.
The next room has photos showing Dover before, during and after. I will post a photo of St. James Church, which did not survive. The Castle did.
Finally what Roger had been waiting for. WWII and the room his mom worked in when she was an ATS in the WWII. The room is much the same as it was then, but perhaps had been shortened three feet. There they plotted on a big map where the planes and ships were. Following is the room where they tracked shelling and coordinated the antiaircraft guns. The next room is huge and is filed with banks of machines that would fit in one computer today. We pass an entrance to some tunnels they built in the 1940s. They were to be used in case of an atomic bomb. The men who built these were mostly Welsh miners. The problem they later discovered is that the chalk hillside would have let the radiation in and they would have died anyway.
When we left the tour we could see our B&B below as we were right on the cliff face.
Part two was our visit to the underground hospital. This visit was mostly a walk through with a recording in each area that was like a radio play of a situation and you were following the characters from the arrival of the ambulance to the end of the surgery. Patients were moved from here as soon as possible as it was a very dark depressing place to recover.
We stopped for our picnic before exploring the church which had for a period of time been used to store coal. It has been fixed up and is in use today. The bell tower next to it was a Roman lighthouse. There were two built, but this one is the only one to survive. It is said to be protected by the ghost of a Roman soldier.
The church proper is great to explore. There are tunnels through the walls, period actors, a couple of hologram actors, the dining hall is set for a meal, the kitchen is fully stocked, and one hall has a great fire going. The smoky haze filled the room...it was warm, but .. cough...cough. We are able to wander the casements, climb the tower, follow the medieval underground tunnels and view the amazing vistas all around us.
Some thoughts. The cost is high, 16 pounds, but we were happy with it. There were hoards of kids, most were great, but there was an unusually high number of kids just running rampant, yelling, slamming things, touching things and pushing by people. There are wheelchair accessible areas, but you really need to be steady on your feet to get the most out of this trip.
We walked home and got cleaned up so we could walk out on the White Cliffs of Dover. There were a few more people out this time, but before long it was mostly just Roger and I. One of the big black clouds that had been sailing by finally decided to drop some rain on us. I sheltered under a rather prickly bush until it blew by and we continued on. We left the view of the castle behind and then the port and its noise faded until it was just us and the land and sea. One could imagine what it was like so many years ago. We sit at the lighthouse for a bit before our return home. There are sections of the cliff that have pulled away from the main land, yet you can see that people walk out on them. It makes you a bit nervous too close to the edge. We sit for a while in view of the castle hoping for the haze to clear, but it appears that that is not to be.
Dinner that night is a pub called the White Horse. It is rustic, but the chips were great and Roger had his red meat and he was very happy. The walls are covered in felt pen documenting people’s solo and relay swims across the channel from England to France or France to England.

Posted by Mari Anne 27.07.2011 23:36 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged cliffs white castle roman dover ww ats windy. dunkirque Comments (0)

Calais and then Dover

Taking the ferry to the white cliffs of Dover.

semi-overcast 21 °C

The train is comfy, but not as up to date as the ones from Rome to Venice and Venice to Milan. The conductor told us, to lock our door at night, only the door is broken. We devised a "system" using our daypack and Roger's belt to hold the door shut and " locked". Our passports are taken away for the night and returned in the morning along with tea, coffee and "commercial" croissants (better than nothing!). We are arriving at 8:19, lots of time to go from Paris Bercy to Paris Nord for our next train. This one will be first class, but we are only going to Calais.

First class is definitely the way to go! :)

By the way Tracy, the guy in the commercials that we saw in the station in Rome that you thought was the guy in the movie "300" ... his name is Vincent Cassel (there was an interview with him in the TGV magazine on the SNCF train).

The train stops at the station just out of town, but the train is just three or four minutes late and the bus has gone. We join with another fellow, Paul, and grabbed a taxi in to the port. Paul got off in the village to eat, and we got to the port in good time and got on an earlier ferry. We showed our online booking and our passports and were given tickets; we then went through security and showed our passports again to the British Customs. Then we gave our tickets to the desk in the departure lounge and were given boarding passes. A bus picked us up, we gave the driver our passes, and she drove us across the area to the ferry where we climbed a long ramp to board.
Wow, now we are settled in the bow area, had a sandwich on nutty bread and Roger is in and out and around the boat in excitement.
The ferry is not full and has plenty of space to wander around. We get splendid views of both coastlines although it is overcast. Roger took hundreds of photos. Our B&B is just up the road. As usual we are on the third floor. I asked for the room facing the cliffs, but there is a common room that overlooks, the road and the coast. We are pegged as being Canadian as Canadians are the only ones who remove their shoes when they enter a house.
We take a wander down the beach and Roger wants Fish and Chips. It is very good, not greasy! As we sit there is a cry and thud from the street as a lady has fallen and hit her head. A nearby nurse is by her side immediately and the police show up soon after. She is shaken up, but is able to walk to the police car in a bit and they all leave. Roger also wants to charge his ipad, but didn't bring a converter so we pick one up.
The Dover village centre is noisy and I must admit at this point I am understanding the conversations no better than I was in Italy. At least in Italy I didn't expect to understand.

Posted by Mari Anne 26.07.2011 10:02 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged train castle ferry dover calais Comments (0)

Milan and on to Paris

Why are there no shows in Venice or Milan.

sunny 25 °C

We are the only ones this morning for breakfast. I thought I heard some one leave early this morning. I have squirreled away a couple of yoghurt and crackers for the train rides and we will pick up water closer to the station. The walk is lovely, but gets busier as we near the termini. We watch the masses arrive (especially the ones with loads of luggage ... yah for back packs) and try to figure out where to go from here.
The train does not indicate what track until just 15 minutes before it is scheduled to depart. Coach 6, seats 11 & 14. Only it turns out these tickets are for the 25 of MAY! Same train, same couch, same time, same trip as the one we should be on in, now in July ... The nice conductor sold us new tickets and confirmed our connecting trains to Paris in the evening were for the correct date. Whoops. I guess with planning for over a month I am allowed one mistake (the conductor realized it was an honest mistake, as we had a print out with our ticket for May sandwiched in between two other tickets for July, but he could have charged us an extra 100 Euros fine for not having a valid ticket). We had great seats too. The last row in the car, which are three together and only the two of us taking up 3seats ... :)
We navigate Milan fairly well with just the city map. This is a bigger, newer and more cosmopolitan city (plus wider streets and many of the guys dressed in suits and women in dresses ... Milan is a fashion centre after all). We are in the banking section so we are able to pick up some cash to replace the money we spent on tickets. It was not that much.
Roger was hungry so we had the crackers and yogurt and then went off to find Teatro alla Scala. We were taking a photo in front when a local man stopped to tell us it was closed. We knew that, but he directed us around the corner to the La Scala museum. Wow, the insides are amazing. We got to go in the theatre, in several of the audience boxes where they would normally have chairs for people watching the production. The theatre is huge! They had the large chandelier lowered down and were cleaning it, plus the curtains were open and we could see the whole stage ... wow! It was incredible! Of course, the stage is an opera stage, so it's raked at an angle from the very front to the very back, but it has trap doors here and there, plus lots of hydraulics so the can raise or lower chunks of the stage whenever they need to. It's a technician's dream stage! The audience boxes, the velvet, the historical displays were all worth it. Roger of course was over the top. He had been on stage with La Scala when they came to Vancouver in 1986. He sang quietly from the box we were in ("Caro Mio Bene") so he can now say he sang at the theatre itself ... :)

We had heard shouting in the square across from the theatre the whole time we were inside it so we crossed the street to the square to find out who was protesting about what. A tiny group had signs Alpha Romeo and the word Cobras? I'll look that up later. Needing a WC we stopped at a McDonalds. Roger had a huge meat craving and bought two meals for us (yes they have meal deals at McDonalds in Milan too...) The price was right, the fries were better than ours at home and the location was great for people watching. Venice has one McDonalds, which we never actually saw, and Rome and Milan have piles of them, only they call them Mc Cafe.
Across the square from the McDonalds, is the Duomo, an amazing cathedral/church/structure with figures all around and a very short line up. We decided to go in. While we could take backpacks in, I had to just about empty mine for the security guard before I was cleared. Once again an amazing vista. There are two Cardinals here who have been made saints. I would not really wish my decaying body on display, but I think there is no chance I will ever be sainted.
We walked past all the upper crust stores that you see in every big city and sit in a park serenaded by the toilette in the corner of the park that is beeping, insisting it needs to be serviced.
Milan has mosquitoes!
We enjoy the park and find our way towards the stazione through a very interesting neighbourhood. Lots of Chinese food, Japanese food, Indian food and big groups of men, so I prefer to keep on walking to a more "family area" to stop for a drink. I would have loved some Asian food, but felt a little overwhelmed. We end up at a place that gives you a plate of food with your drink plus a functioning bathroom and a TV with the local news. Major bonus! The wine is good, the toilets so so, the snacks are decent and the news shows a fire at a train station. We finally figure out it is Rome and won't affect us. We have a game of cards in front of the station, watch an animated phone call by a young woman, watch a kid ride his bike around selling Birra, buy some yogurt for breakie, watch some pod casts by Rick Steves on Italy and our train is here and leaves on time. Weather is hot, but not too hot and sunny.

Posted by Mari Anne 26.07.2011 10:00 Archived in Italy Tagged venice train milan scala teatre alla duodo Comments (0)

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